Tuesday, June 6, 2023

A microrobot that navigates the physiological environment and captures cells

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed hybrid microrobots, the size of a single biological cell (about 10 microns in diameter), which can be controlled and navigated using two different mechanisms, electrical and magnetic. The microrobot can navigate between different cells in a biological sample, distinguishing between different cell types, identifying whether it is healthy or dying, and transporting the desired cell for further study, such as genetic analysis.

The microrobot can also pass drugs and/or genes into the target captured individual cells. According to the researchers, the development can help further research in the critical analysis of single cells, as well as use in medical diagnostics, drug delivery and detection, surgery, and environmental protection.

“The microrobot has an increased ability to identify and capture a single cell, without the need to stop the suit, test the site or retrieve and transport external equipment.”

The novel technology was developed by Professor Gilad Yossifon of Tel Aviv University’s School of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering and his team, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Yue Wu and student Sivan Yakov, in collaboration with Dr. Afu Fu, a postdoctoral researcher. at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. The research was published in the journal Advanced Science.

Professor Gilad Yossifon explains that microrobots (sometimes micromotors or active particles) are small synthetic particles about the size of a biological cell that can move from one place to another and perform various actions (for example, to collect synthetic or biological materials) autonomously or by external control from someone working.

According to Yossifon, “The development of microrobots’ capabilities to move autonomously” was inspired by biological microswimmers, such as bacteria and sperm. This is an innovative area of ​​research that is developing rapidly, with a variety of applications in fields such as medicine and the environment, as well as a research tool.”

Identification of target cells

Demonstrating the capabilities of the microrobot, the researchers used it to capture blood and cancer cells and a single bacterium, demonstrating that it can distinguish between cells with different levels of viability, such as a healthy cell, a drug-damaged cell, or a cell that is dying or dying in a natural “suicide” process. (such a distinction can be significant, for example when developing anti-cancer drugs).

After identifying the desired cell, the microrobot picked it up and moved it to a place where it could be further developed. Another great innovation is the microrobot’s ability to identify target cells that are not labeled: the microrobot recognizes the type of cell and its state (as healthy) using an integral detection mechanism based on the state of the cell, with unique electrical properties.

Professor Yossifon states that “Our new development significantly advances technology in two main aspects: hybrid propulsion and navigation using two different mechanisms: electric and magnetic. The microrobot also has an increased ability to identify and capture a single cell, without the need to launch a suit, test a location or recover and This research tests biological models in the laboratory in vitro, but the intention should be to develop microrobots in the future that also work inside the body, for example, as effective drug carriers that can be precisely directed to the target.

Great technology in physiological environments

The researchers explain that the impact mechanism of the microrobot is important in physiological environments, such as those found in liquid biopsies. “The microrobots that have worked so far in the electrical conduction mechanism are not effective in certain environments, characterized by a relatively high electrical conductivity, such as in the physiological environment, where the electric drive is less effective. This is where the complementary magnetic mechanism is combined, which is effective regardless of the electrical environment.

Professor Yossifon concludes “In our research, we have developed an innovative microrobot with great capabilities that contribute significantly to the field: hybrid propulsion and combined navigation through electric and magnetic fields, as well as the ability to recognize, capture, and transport a single cell from one place to another in a physiological environment. These capabilities relevant to a wide variety of applications as well as research”.

Laboratory in particles

“Among other things, the following techniques will help: medical diagnostics in a single cell, the introduction of drugs or genes into cells, gene editing, drug transport inside the body, cleaning the environment of polluting particles. drug development, and creating a “lab in particles”, a microscopic laboratory to diagnostics in microparticle areas only accessible.

Source: Advanced Science.

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